Wednesday, 1 October 2014
The day before was about distraction. A trip to the bowling alley and a pizza with her cousins. Always ham and mushroom. Always with a glass of apple juice. And later, dressing up as a garden fairy and Queen Elsa, and a light tea of scrambled eggs. Afterwards, she watched Peter Pan while I stretched on the yoga mat.
It was a while before she fell asleep. I was summoned. She was excited and worried and sad. Mummy, why can't I go back to pre-school tomorrow? But I couldn't turn the clock back; her new sky blue uniform pressed and folded on her dressing table stool. I felt it too: the sadness; and an inexplicable feeling I couldn't put my finger on. I couldn't write that evening, there was too much to process; instead, I curled under the duvet with a book, and remembered my first day; the green tunic; the sash; the grey cardigan; the green gabardine and hat; and waiting in the playground for my name to be called and join my new class. My heart stammered: tomorrow would feel like my first day all over again.
We set off early, walking through the fallen leaves on the warm September morning. Parents and children were gathering in the playground. She found a friend and holding hands they ran around the woodland area with their book bags and water bottles. When the bell rang, there was a sense of unreality in the air as she lined up with the other children in reception; and then I waved bye-bye as she marched quite happily in single file through the main entrance. That was that: she was gone; she had disappeared into a world of paper, paint and glue I would never belong. Around me were swelling eyes and looks of bewilderment, like a foot had been amputated. There was a gap between the blind and the window sill. I took a peak; she had her back turned to me, was paying attention to her teacher. Good girl. I walked home, a pinch of anxiety in the veins; and after closing the door behind me, I made a cup of tea and filled the sink with suds.
Nearly a month later, I am not so sure I have fully adjusted. There have been accidents: I bumped the new car; I pronged my chin on a garden cane; I dropped an amplifier bound for the post office denting a corner; and my asthma tightened like a flower press. There is clearly more processing to be done. She, however, is coping just fine. Mummy, I had chicken pie with pasta today. Mummy, the shortbread and jelly was yummy. Mummy, can 'so-and-so' come to play? But when pushed on the actual nitty-gritty of her lessons, she hasn't been very forthcoming; I can't remember what I did today. I'm too tired to talk right now, Mummy. Obviously, I will have to change my tack. She does enjoy 'reading' her picture books though. This week we received her first full story with words: simple sentences like I am a mat; I am a cat; I am a bat.
Every day she comes home with a new knock or scrape to the knee, or her dress and arms covered in the coagulated mess of the muddy kitchen. The washing machine has never seen this much action. She is happy. I am relieved: I am proud. She is surviving the full days even with the added ballet and swimming after school; I think I am more tired than she is; and as for her new shoes, well they are well and truly scuffed.